I am a writer and executive administrator for Trusted Clothes, which is an ethical and sustainable fashion organization. The following is a series devoted in honor of the work done in collaboration with the Schroeckers and the Trusted Clothes team. Part 1 below.
Tell us about yourself – family background, personal story, education, and previous professional capacities.
I started in the fashion industry in 1999 in St. Louis, working at a boutique after college, and sewing after my senior year in college because I wanted something hands-on and concrete. I was studying English literature and while I loved to read and write. It was abstract and alienating for me. My personality type doesn’t mesh with it.
It is nice, at the end of the day, to have a pile of work, see what you’ve accomplished, and in a concrete way. I moved to Chicago to get a second BA at Columbia College in Fashion Design. I was lucky. I got a job in the industry while I in school. It was at a handbag company called 1154 Lill Studio. The company was a real pioneer in mass customization.
As a result, we needed to make everything one-by-one, made-to-order, and with a quick turnaround time – three weeks. We made everything in-house first and then in the Chicago area. It was a lesson in production management and efficiency. I was seeing local manufacturers firsthand, which was rare. Everything was offshoring.
My consciousness was raised in working with contractors and realizing that a lot of people don’t get paid fairly, making friends with stitchers, and hearing their stories of immigration and exploitation in the sewing industry. So, I started asking questions and becoming conscientious.
I ended up getting a graduate degree. A Master’s degree at the University Chicago in Social Work. I focused on labor rights in the garment industry. I worked as a labor organizer for a few years in Chicago. Primarily, I was working with undocumented, Mexican population, frontline workers.
I was training on worker’s rights and helping to organize campaigns in the work place. However, I missed working with my hands—the colors and textures in fashion, the more direct creativity that world affords. Following this, I joined Chicago fair trade and became involved in that movement as a volunteer helping to pass a Sweatfree Ordinance in the city and county level in Chicago.
Also, I took on a lot of freelance work with fair trade companies. I worked for SERRV. They sent me to China. I did some work in Peru, in the Lima area. Also, I have done a lot of technical design for local companies in ethical and fair trade fashion. Finally, I launched my own line in January of 2015.
All images courtesy of www.trustedclothes.com.